Track star Sha’Carri Richardson suspended from U.S. Olympic team after failing marijuana test

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Track star Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended for one month from the U.S. Olympic team after failing a test for marijuana use.

Richardson’s suspension means that the 21-year-old cannot compete in the women’s 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins July 23.

That event, which she had been favored to win, will occur just after the end of her suspension issued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which she accepted.

But she cannot run in the event because the positive drug test invalidated her performance earlier in June during the U.S. Olympic trials, which had originally qualified her for the Tokyo Games.

It is possible that she could still compete in the 4-x-100-meter relay, whose participants are chosen by U.S. track and field officials.

“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” Richardson said on NBC’s “TODAY” show Friday. “I know what I’m supposed to do.”

Richardson said during her interview that she ingested something with marijuana in it before she competed in the U.S. trials in Eugene, Oregon, after being shocked to learn from a reporter that her biological mother had died.

Marijuana use is legal in Oregon. But it is a banned substance by World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Joe Biden respects the independence of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to make decisions in cases like Richardson’s.

“This was an independent decision made by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and not a decision that would be made by the U.S. government, as is appropriate,” said Psaki.

But she called Richardson, “an inspiring young woman who has gone through a lot personally,” and who “also happens to be one of the fastest women in the world.”

Richardson tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, after her win in the 100-meter trials in Eugene.

“That sent me into … a state of emotional panic,” she said of hearing the news about her mother.

Richardson, who was raised by her grandmother, said she was “blinded by emotions” and was “hurting” after getting the news.

“I would like to say to my friends, to my family, to my sponsorship, um, to the haters too, I apologize,” she said.

“As much as I’m disappointed, I know that when I step on the track, I don’t represent myself. I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love,” Richardson said. “Standing here, I just say, don’t judge me, because I am human, I’m you, I just happen to run a little faster.”

“This will be the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with a gold medal in the 100,” Richardson said.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement, “The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels.”

“Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her,” Tygart said.

The agency noted that the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code “newly classifies THC as a ‘Substance of Abuse’ because it is frequently used in society outside the context of sport.”

Normally, an athlete who tests positive for such a substance is suspended for three months if they establish that their use of it “occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance,” the agency noted.

But the suspension is reduced to one month if an athlete completes a counseling program, which Richardson did.

The minimum suspension under anti-doping rules is one month. The agency noted that Richardson received the same punishment that two other athletes received from the agency under the new World Anti-Doping code.

The U.S. Track and Field Team in a statement posted on Twitter said, “Sha’Carri Richardson’s situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved.”

“Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of the USATF’s most critical priorities and we will work with Sha’Carri to ensure she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future.”

Nike, the athletic apparel giant, which sponsors Richardson, said in a statement, “We appreciate Sha’Carri’s honesty and accountability and will continue to support her through this time.”

— CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Olympic Games through 2032.

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